Chemical Dependency Counseling

Effective chemical dependency counseling requires professional input from several disciplines to help abusers overcome addictions. Whether people become addicted to prescription or street drugs, the effects on the mind, body, and psyche are very similar. Habit-forming chemicals are absorbed into the blood stream and can cause cardiovascular disorders; strokes; psychological and physical dependencies; and symptoms of fear, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and hopelessness upon withdrawal. People may begin using prescription drugs for legitimate reasons: tranquilizers to calm the nerves or relieve insomnia or pain killers to alleviate chronic discomfort. However, medicines can become habit-forming when individuals begin to take higher dosages than prescribed to continue feeling euphoric or to avoid dealing with stressful situations.

Chemical dependency counseling reveals some startling tendencies. Some patients consult with different doctors for the same illness only to obtain larger quantities of pain killers or tranquilizers. Others may habitually mix prescription drugs with alcohol to numb the mind from dwelling on disappointments or personal conflicts. Senior adults are notorious for forgetting the correct dosages of medicines and either overdosing or mixing prescriptions, which decreases the potency of one or more drugs. Many people continue taking medications to feel better psychologically or physically even when no ailments are present; and some insist that they cannot function without a "little help from my friends." Surprisingly, statistics indicate that the number of emergency room visits for prescription and illegal drug overdoses are nearly the same; and the individual who abuses codeine may be just as addicted as those who abuse cocaine. While prescription medicines are perfectly legal, moral and ethical law prohibits using medicine for purposes other than the original intent. "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (I Corinthians 6:12).

When patients present to the emergency center with symptoms of drug overdose or withdrawal, a team of medical doctors and behavioral therapists must determine how to devise a treatment plan which addresses the underlying causes for addiction. Doctors and therapists will first assess the types of chronic or physical conditions individuals are being treated for, including high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases; and try to ascertain the number of medications patients are currently taking. Street drug abusers will also be required to undergo a complete physical before beginning detoxification and chemical dependency counseling.

Therapists that specialize in chemical dependency counseling can better assist patients towards recovery by reviewing past medical histories and patterns of substance abuse. Many times, counselors will discover that long-term abuse has created adverse psychological and physical effects. Individuals may have become addicted to opiates, such as marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroine, methadone, and morphine. Addictions to morphine may occur after chronic pain sufferers are given dosages to curb acute discomfort, and continue its use long after pain has subsided. Analgesics or non-addictive painkillers may also be abused. In addition to prescription and street drugs, people may utilize over-the-counter medications, such as nasal sprays, laxatives, cough medicines and diet pills to get a "high," instead of using household remedies for normal purposes.

Once doctors discover which drugs patients have abused, the process of detoxification includes administering medication intravenously to rid the body of residual chemicals and help patients begin rehabilitation. Chemical dependency counseling, cognitive behavior therapy and individual or group psychotherapy may be employed to help resolve underlying issues of substance abuse. Counselors will spend time with patients in the hospital or as out patients to discover the circumstances, situations, or environmental factors which led to chemical dependency. Qualified psychologists gently lead patients into productive and revealing dialogues about marital problems, childhood conflicts, workplace situations, or health conditions which triggered drug abuse. Therapists will strive to listen intently to individuals to assess negative or self-destructive thought patterns which led to socially-unacceptable behavior or dependency. People may turn to drugs to resolve and cope with any number of incidents of child or sexual abuse, dysfunctional family issues, divorce, depression, or mental impairment.

Effective chemical dependency counseling not only exposes the underlying cause of substance abuse, but it also provides opportunities to reprogram negative thought processes and retrain individuals to better cope with life's challenges. Therapists also provide tools for reeducating patients about drug abuse and dependency and the adverse physical and psychological effects of prolonged use of stimulants, analgesics, alcohol, or tranquilizers. Reprogramming also includes offering alternative methods of coping with physical pain and chronic health conditions, such as natural supplements and vitamin therapies, moderate exercise, guided imagery, stress management, and relaxation techniques.

Some faith-based behavioral clinics employ Biblical principles to help individuals back on the road to recovery. By providing professional chemical dependency counseling which encourages individuals to seek help from God, faith-based institutions add a powerful element to a comprehensive rehabilitation program. Some 12-step programs are based on spiritual principles which gradually rebuild a person's faith and restore the ability to resist using harmful substances. Spiritual counseling also helps patients endure withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, muscle spasms and pain, delirium, restlessness, or convulsions.

Individuals plagued by addictions should remember that chronic abuse doesn't happen overnight; and it will take weeks or months of chemical dependency counseling to help recover. Depending on the extent of chronic abuse, some individuals may require years of participation in support groups and programs. Churches, clinics, hospitals, and health clubs may offer rehabilitation courses for those seeking to regain control over chemical dependency. However, by submitting to a comprehensive program of medication, group or individual psychotherapy, cognitive behavior modification, reeducation, and faith-based instruction, patients will be more successful in rebuilding a life free from drugs.

Chemical Dependency Counselor

A chemical dependency counselor plays a very important role in the recovery of an alcoholic or drug addict. A person with an addiction to either alcohol or drugs experiences physiological symptoms when he is unable to get a "fix" another drink or access to the needed drug. The symptoms may become quite severe and is often referred to as "having withdrawals." Some people experience withdrawal in much milder forms. For example, a person who drinks sodas on a regular basis may experience a migraine headache if she tries to skip the beverage. Sodas contain caffeine and the lack of caffeine can create a physiological reaction. Many smokers have a very difficult time kicking tobacco habits, even though they may be very highly motivated to do so, because their bodies need the nicotine fix that comes with lighting up a cigarette. Both these examples, the soda drinker and the smoker, experience mild physiological withdrawal symptoms compared to the alcoholic or drug addict. These individuals can suffer terribly during recovery. A knowledgeable chemical dependency counselor can assist with the long recovery process.

Some counselors choose this vocation because either they or their families have been adversely affected by alcoholic or drug abuse. Others just have a heart for the hurting and want to make a difference in the lives of others. Obtaining the appropriate associates' or bachelors' degrees is the first step toward a counseling career. The first semesters of the degree program are often made up of general education courses, such as English, history, and math. But the student may also take a few classes in the selected major. A student who plans a vocation as a chemical dependency counselor, during later semesters, will take classes in psychology, counseling, and perhaps even biology or anatomy. The program may include a relevant internship, perhaps at a clinic or inpatient facility. Fieldwork courses in treatment agencies provide students with firsthand, hands-on experience in working with patients who are in the recovery process. Graduates may find positions with government agencies, such as a state's department of health or vocational rehabilitation program. Or the graduates may enter private practice, perhaps at an inpatient facility or a medical clinic.

Educational training doesn't end with college graduation. Some people may choose to go on to graduate school, while others are ready to get to work. But every licensed chemical dependency counselor will be required to take continuing education units, commonly known as CEUs, to keep the license. CEU workshops and seminars are often held in conjunction with community college or university programs. The instruction centers on a variety of important issues, such as anger management, related eating disorders, and relapse prevention. Distance learning and independent study options are usually available, too, and can be especially convenient for someone who has a more than full-time work schedule and heavy patient load. A vast amount of information on degree programs and continuing education courses can be found online by doing a simple search. Potential students can research various options, but will want to be sure that the CEUs they earn are from an accredited educational institution. State governments require licensing as a way to regulate the profession and ensure that people who say they are counselors actually have the needed knowledge to help others with treatment plans. Licensing provides governmental legitimacy to the professional chemical dependency counselor. Even so, prospective patients are advised to do appropriate research to find a good match. One's personal physician is a good place to begin for a referral. Online research can also help an individual find appropriate treatment options.

A recovering alcoholic or drug addict often needs more than one person to help with the treatment process. King Solomon wrote: "Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly. Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established" (Proverbs 15:21-22). A professional counselor may be part of a team that works with the individual. In addition to the chemical dependency counselor, the individual may have access to a psychologist or psychiatrist, a continuing care manager, and a spiritual advisor. Physicians and nursing personnel may also be part of the team. These professionals work together to make an assessment and develop a treatment plan. Throughout the process, the team reviews the patient's progress and updates the treatment plan as needed. In addition to appropriate medications, patients often participate in individual and group therapy sessions.

As part of her ongoing education, a chemical dependency counselor may work toward certification in a specialty. For example, the counselor may complete a certification course on anger resolution or that focuses on teenage drug abuse. A recovering alcoholic or drug addict who has other conditions, such as deafness or mental illness, will benefit from the counseling expertise of someone who has had special training with these types of issues. Some recovering addicts are pregnant and these women also need medical support to ensure the safe delivery of a healthy infant. The counseling profession is not for everyone. The pay sometimes seems way too low for the amount of energy and expertise that is expended on the behalf of others. The work can be emotionally draining, especially when the patient is uncooperative or returns to the addiction. But when patients succeed in the recovery program, the professional chemical dependency counselor can take great satisfaction in knowing she played an important role in that process. It's the successes that keep the tough counselor going even when the going gets tough.

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